Archive for May, 2012

Non Profit Board Standing Committees

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Standing Committees Should Not Be “STANDING STILL” Committees

By Joseph John

Congratulations. You reviewed your By-Laws and you verified that “yes, indeed” your non profit organization has authorized a set “X” amount of “Standing Committees.” BRAVO for making sure that a very important structure within ANY board are the standing committees — the workhorses of any organization (and don’t forget the ad hoc committees). But exercise caution! Are those Standing Committees standing in place? Are they standing still?

non profit standing committeesHere are some major problems that I have seen with many standing committees: INERTIA (or lack thereof). EMPOWERMENT (or lack thereof). DO-ABILITY.  A “MOTHER MAY?” mentality that translates into NOTHING getting done or just standing still. The proverbial 80/20 Rule. How many non profit board members have you dealt with that are so gung-ho that they would prefer to move ahead and beg for forgiveness after a major accomplishment has taken place? Does your board have any of those “gung-ho types?” If so, congratulations — you’re fortunate.

Consider the following general rule of many non profit boards. Think of all the non profit organizations boards that are populated by people who come from a “for profit” organization. These “corporate/entrepreneurial” individuals want to share their expertise with a particular non profit organization that they believe in. These individuals are accustomed to being decision-makers and doers. On a regular basis they know how to get things done, follow time frames, “to-do lists” and “drop-dead dates.”

It’s second nature to them that once they’ve been given the “green light,” it becomes a matter of “please get out of my way so I can get my job done!” They’re accustomed to making business decisions and getting things done because they have a high energy level; they are familiar with empowerment and delegation, and believe that what they do in the “for profit world” can be transferred to a nonprofit organization.

And yet, here’s another general rule of some non profit boards. When a high energy person joins a particular board, there seems to be an invisible “rite of passage” — a purging of empowerment. They’re brain-washed of their “do-ability,” their high energy, their willingness to work and get things done. Instead, they’re hog-tied to “this is the way we do it” or “we’ve never done it that way before,” or “it’s always worked before….” Sometimes you can feel the proverbial “slap of the wrist” for daring to take any initiative. OUCH!

Well, Standing Committees are simply an extension of “Its’ Your Board” — a phrase I used when referencing It’s Your Ship in one of my articles. I truly believe in all the precepts that are presented in the book It’s Your Ship. What about “push the envelope for innovation…volunteering benefits everyone…stay ahead of the competition”…or, “make your ‘crew’ think ‘we can do anything.”

Leadership is key in any organization, whether it’s a for profit or non profit organization. And, true leadership EMPOWERS. Once a board is empowered to work within the white lines of the by-laws, the vision, mission, and values of the organization, then the standing and ad hoc committees need to say: “Get out of the way and let us operate” — a necessary mantra for nonprofit organizations to function EFFICIENTLY and GROW.

Wouldn’t it be nice that a lot of non profit organizations moved forward with new ideas and concepts because some of the board members on those standing committees REFUSED to stand still and would rather beg forgiveness after several accomplishments? Wouldn’t it be nice if non profit organizations totally accepted the fact that the board of directors accept the concept that “It’s Their Board.” They understand that they were elected to that board to move the organization ahead. And so, it’s time to move Standing Committees from “Stand Still” to “Full Speed Ahead”. Damn the torpedoes — or the naysayers!


Media Training for the “Thought Leader”

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

by Neil Kuvin

media trainingYou’re reading this, so you’re likely in a leadership position. Do you, however, consider yourself someone who develops Thought Leadership Strategy for your company or agency? Because you likely said “yes,” you’re a candidate for media training. Even the most seasoned spokesperson – including the CEO – needs media training and regular refresher sessions. It’s important not to lose sight of this as part of your Thought Leader Strategy.

Our PR agency provides media training sessions to clients as both one of the many services we provide, as well as hiring our training sessions out to ad agencies and clients as a one-time or “series of…” services. There have been several times when we previously worked with a CEO who just didn’t think what we do was important enough for him to take the time and effort to avail himself of our training. Despite our repeated attempts to counsel and even warn him about the damage that could result from not being prepared, he accepted what he thought would be a friendly interview with a major local newscast reporter. Well, friendly it was not and the CEO failed miserably at managing the situation.

If you’re still not convinced, let’s talk about media training in terms a CEO most DEFINITELY will understand. Media training = interview preparation. Getting ready for a news interview is as important, if not more so, than planning a business meeting – and not just during crisis communication. After all, when you’re speaking with the media, your responses reach audiences well beyond the conference room. In addition, different communication techniques are required when utilizing the voice of the media to influence vs. directly communicating with your audience as you do at a meeting.

So, what’s interview preparation? Why would you prepare for hours, maybe days, for a board meeting and not spend the time to inform yourself how best to prepare for that “jerk” from the major TV station in your city who got wind of a serious breach of ethics within your company and is now on the phone wanting to meet with you as soon as possible. And if you blow her off you and the company will get the “couldn’t be reached for comment” comment on the newscast that only positions you as the “jerk” that wouldn’t talk to the media.

Remember your role with the company is more than financial leadership. It’s definitely thought leadership insofar as how you handle yourself on camera and in print, as well as your knowledge of the company as a provider of products or services to your customers. And as a thought leader your role is as important for messaging in every

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way you can. The most successful sound bit is the ability to provide responses in a comprehensive yet concise manner. That takes practice.

Media Training can turn a mediocre or failed interview into a memorable one. It just takes time and thought. You’re the leader. Spend both of those elements in making you and your company a winner.

NON Profit Board: Oh! That Time of Year

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

“Oh, the Places Your Non Profit Board Will Go”

by Joseph John

It’s that time of year…May and June — graduations out the wazoo — is that a word? Well, maybe with Dr. Seuss.

I have traditionally given college grads, who invite me to their graduation party, a brand-new, never been read edition of Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go. And, traditionally, my wife insists I put some MONEY in the book as well — but, I digress.

Well, just recently, I gave out my second book at a wonderful party with close friends. Somehow, I know deep in my heart I am funding the Dr. Seuss foundation, some way, some how — I digress AGAIN.

Whenever I purchase the book, I have to re-read the book and see if I can find new phrases and new concepts to reinforce my belief that this was one of Dr. Seuss’ all time great books.

Suddenly, it hit me when I read the book, before wrapping it — if we could change some of the verbiage in this classic, and have the word Boards replace He, wouldn’t this be a powerful message for so many non profit boards?

I went onto the Web and saw two great sites that were “talking” to each other: one was and the other was suite “Donstuff” referenced “suite 101” consistently in his blog, and so I thought he was on to something.

So I took the liberty of using his/their recap of this great classic and inserted “Board” wherever the term “He” or similar pronoun occurred. So here goes, and again, thanks to “Donstuff” and “Suite 101” for providing the framework…

In the beginning, Dr Seuss writes…

Oh! The Places You’ll Go starts with a Board starting off on its journey to Great Places. They’re “off and away!” They’ve got brains and feet, and can go in any direction they choose. They’re fresh and excited about this latest adventure, and they know nothing will stop them.


The Non Profit Board can choose whether or not to go down certain streets. Dr. Seuss stresses how smart and capable the Board is. And Boards are all about making good decisions.

Good things happen!

In Oh The Places You’ll Go, Boards are gutsy and brainy — and amazing things happen! Dr Seuss advises the Board to go along with the things – and they’ll start happening too! They’ll soar to high heights and see some great sights, and they’ll be at the top of their class. Dr Suess is optimistic.

But bad things happen, too…

The Non Profit Board gets left in a lurch, while other organizations soar on. The Board comes down with a bump, and gets into a slump. And, as Dr. Seuss says in Oh The Places You’ll Go, “Un-slumping the Board is

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not easily done.” Streets are dark and unmarked. Choices are confusing and possibly dangerous. Confusion can set in and so can impulsive decisions and even some hysteria too!

A summary of waiting

Dr Suess says that the waiting place isn’t fun for any Non Profit Board in Oh The Places You’ll Go. Here, Boards wait for other people, the weekend, the phone to ring, money, possessions, anything, everything – even a second chance….

[Hmmmmm, does this sound like Non profit Boards?]

Dr Seuss writes about escaping to bright places!

The Board doesn’t wait in Oh The Places You’ll Go – waiting isn’t for them! They find the “bright places where Boom Bands are playing” and they start to ride high. They’re excited again, and ready to win big time on TV with everyone watching. The Board’s a star!

Playing the lonely game

But then the Non Profit Board gets all alone, whether they like it or not. Dr Seuss knows that sometimes we all play lonely games no matter who we are. When we’re alone there’s a good chance we’ll get scared out of our pants.

Resiliency and bouncing back

The Board moves forward through foul weather, prowling enemies, howling Hakken-Kraks, frightening creeks, and leaky sneakers. They hike upward and face their problems! They’ll “get mixed up with many strange birds” as they go: Dr Seuss advises the Board to step with great care and great tact.

Dr Seuss writes about the ups and downs of life

But it’s 98¾% guaranteed that the Board will succeed! The odds are in their favor – they will move mountains. In Oh the Places You’ll Go Dr. Seuss advises the Non Profit Board to get on its way, whether its name is ___ [and you can fill in the blanks].

Wow! What a great gift to give to Non Profit Board Members as they embark on helping your organization move forward in their quest of the Vision and the Mission of the organization. Or…what a great book to give to board members who have served with distinction and now are moving on to new challenges. Or…what a great book to use at a creative brain-storming session at a board meeting where new ideas, new concepts are being explored.

Oh, the Places Your Board Can Go!…but remember: don’t let those Hakken-Kraks get in your way.


As We Forgive

Monday, May 14th, 2012

by Neil Kuvin

forgiveProbably the most compelling and challenging of any three words in the entire Bible are, “As we forgive.”  How do you respond?  And how do you forgive?  Isn’t that the hardest part?  Maybe not as three simple words in the “Lord’s Prayer,” but in the real world. How often are you angry with someone?  The disagreement and voice volume didn’t at all match the relatively uncomplicated subject. Maybe you came in this morning with an “I’m gonna get you” attitude?  Do you draft language for a competitor to your client that evens the score, or puts a competitive person or product in a negative light?

We’re not being infantile or fatuous about this.  We recognize all too well that pointing out the negatives in a product or person can turn some heads.  That when you tell people something long enough and spend enough money to drive home the point, many will change their opinion.  This condition is most prevalent during a political campaign or when a new product goes on the offensive to get consumers to switch allegiances and try the new competitor out.

Now, let’s get back to being personal.  Think about a particular person you dislike and want to disparage.  Think about what you do with your anger.  Days, months, years go by and you never really forgive that person.  Not to their face.  And when you think about it, the memory of the incident has faded; you’re still in touch with this person, occasionally, and even daily.  But you don’t give up or give in on taking them aside and simply saying “I’m sorry.” 

Learning to deal with our own personal anger, jealousy, envy, takes a lot of effort.  What it does is creates a great environment for how we, as professional ad or PR people approach copy concepts for our angry, jealous, envious clients.  It does even more.  It positions the ultimate sense of direction we pursue when taking an offensive or especially a defensive position in the media.

Take off your gloves and take a deep breath.  Take a walk in the country.  There’s way more to life than getting even.


Mad Men

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Mad Men might be just that!

by Neil Kuvin

mad menAs anyone who’s ever watched an episode of Mad Men knows, ad copywriters have turned that kind of persuasion into both an art and a science. So what can Madison Avenue teach us about writing more effective news releases???

One secret that advertising copywriters have long known is that the benefits of a product or service are far more compelling to potential customers than its features.

Does a news release suffice as an ad for your client or your agency? Of course not. Any journalist will emphatically tell you, a news release is not ever to be considered an advertisement. An ad is a paid media message over which the buyer has essentially complete control. A news release is a suggestion for an article, TV news story or other media coverage.

However, from a business perspective, the two often have the same objective: to raise awareness about a product or service and persuade consumers to buy it.  Of course with your company logo on the release, your face and your legitimacy as a purveyor of legitimate “news” is hanging out for all to see.

What’s the difference between focusing on features or driving the copy with benefits?  Features describe the positive qualities of a product or service. Benefits describe the ways those qualities positively affect the consumer—usually by making his or her life better or easier.?? For example, a car’s features might include side airbags, a 250-horsepower engine and a 70-cubic-foot cargo area. But its benefits are that it’s safe, fun to drive and roomy enough to bring three kids, two dogs and a pumpkin pie to grandma’s house for Thanksgiving.

I recently saw an ad for a self-storage facility whose features included clean, well-lighted facilities, 24-hour security and a convenient location. But the ad’s headline—“Reclaim your Garage!”—focused on a single, compelling benefit.

As the “mad men” of Mad Men have shown time and again, the making of sausage is not what you want to see before you order breakfast.

Non Profit Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Shel Silverstein is Talking to Us!

by Joseph John

I enjoy thinking about and writing topics that nonprofit boards might use in their operations. As my fingers start tapping on the keyboard thinking about how non profits operate, I also think of Shel Silverstein.

Many people like neat, little classifications for identifying things and people. As a result, some of those same people who like “neat, tidy classifications” say that Shel Silverstein wrote children’s poetry. Perhaps. But his verse and messages are anything but juvenile. Many of his poems are very deep and make adults think twice or thrice because of the messages. Wow. Talk about peeling back the onion for some thought-provoking verse. However, this article is not a discourse for a poetry seminar.

Not only do I write about non profit board topics, I’ve experienced them, and to this day I sit on several boards. Look with me at YOUR board and the people who comprise them, and then reflect on one of my all-time favorites that Silverstein wrote:


All The Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas

Layin’ In The sun,

Talkin’ ’bout the things

They woulda-coulda-shoulda done…

But all Those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas

All ran away and hid

From one little Did.”

Shel Silverstein from Falling Up

Children’s Poetry? Sure. R-I-G-H-T! I went back to a few of my articles just to see what I have to say about DOING AND DOERS. Here are just a few:

  1. The rush to add deep pockets and super-credentialed individuals for your non profit board may not always be in your best interests IF you are looking for a board of doers. Your organization needs a board that will work together, become team-oriented, and become a group of doers.
  2. Oh, sure, every non profit board has some members who are doers — always moving and never at rest. They want to get things moving. They are self-starters and don’t need a “push”. But how many other board members sit around and wait for that external force (whatever or whomever it may be) to move them into action to accomplish the goals and objectives of organization?
  3. Raise your hand. That’s right! Don’t sit on your hands. You joined the non profit board as a volunteer — so VOLUNTEER. Don’t shun responsibilities and duties that you should be doing as a board member. Nonprofit board members MUST always be “doers”. When you start leaning towards delegation, delegate to yourself first.
  4. It’s important to know that Personal Credibility is based on the types of things that people DO and that applies to organizations as well. “It’s what people do that form our opinions, relationships, and ultimate decision of whether to trust and respect them.” From “the Personal Credibility Factor”
  5. Communicate Purpose and Meaning…make your ‘crew’ think ‘we can do anything.’” From “It’s Your Ship”

From a non profit perspective: You really oughta’ wanna’friend raise, fund raise, create a belief statement, create a lift statement, develop teams, and the list goes on. Is there more to the non profit board members’ not wanna’ doing it!?

As you can see, non profit boards need to get more “DID’s” and have to deal less with the woulda-coulda-shouldas. Hmmmm. Perhaps I’ll

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dust off the “board member assessment” article I wrote a while back. Could be an idea or two in that article to help a board steer clear of the woulda-coulda-shoulda’s.